Senator Grace Poe on Saturday defended Senate Bill No. 1680, which seeks to prohibit government employees and officials from peddling “fake news,” after presidential spokesman Harry Roque slammed the legislation as “unconstitutional.”
Roque on the same day said that Poe’s bill was “presumed unconstitutional as content based restriction.”
Roque argued that the bill was “infirmed for violative of equal protection clause as no basis for singling out government employees.”
But Poe, in a statement, explained that “the equal protection clause does not prohibit classification. What it demands is for everyone in the same class (e.g. government employees and officials) to be held to the same standard.”
“I disagree with Mr. Roque’s reading of the Constitution. His false annotation of the fundamental law is as flawed as is his protective stance over the spread of false information. That is tragic,” Poe said.
“Employees and officials of the government is a sector or group that is recognized specifically. To this end, laws for government employees are introduced and passed, e.g. Salary Standardization Law, Code of Ethical Standards for Government Employees, and others,” the senator added.
Poe also stressed that “public officials and employees are required to be at all times accountable to the people. She also said that public officials and employees are also expected to discharge their duties with utmost responsibility and integrity, and should “uphold public interest over personal interest.”
“For instance are private individuals required to file their SALNs? Are private individuals susceptible to administrative cases on their own? The answer is no,” she said.
The senator pointed out that RA 6713 or the “Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees,” which she seeks to amend, is a law that covers government officials.
“Can you put a provision there that penalizes a private individual? Of course not, because it only applies to public officials and employees,” Poe said.